The prohibition on political activity by city police officers goes back more than 100 years.

The provision — which police Cmdr. Matt Prouty appears to have run afoul of by participating in a honk-and-wave for hit wife, a candidate for a state representative — was not familiar to a number of the people I talked to this week. I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of it before people complained, after the fact, about city firefighters violating it in the 2017 election.

Working my way through the archives, I found that the clause stating that members of the police department aren’t supposed to do anything other than vote appeared in the 1906 city charter. I did not find the equivalent language for the fire department at that time, but I didn’t look especially hard. Whether it was there in 1906 or not, it was in the charter by 1951, when a charter change that would have retained those clauses while moving Rutland to a city manager-style government failed.

In 1959, Mayor Francis Waterman cited the charter when he fired Special Police Officer Cecil Porter for circulating a nominating petition for mayoral candidate Dan Healy. Healy appears to have reinstated Porter after winning the election that year. The prohibition again became an issue in 1983, when Mayor Jack Daley told the union not to consider him for an endorsement — though coverage at the time indicates Daley was unlikely to get the endorsement of the police union, which was upset with him for level-funding the department’s budget. The head of the union at the time argued that the prohibition applied only to individual officers, not the union.

There was a standoff of sorts but, ultimately, the union made no endorsements.

Attempts to repeal the prohibition for both departments failed in 1999 and again in 2000.

You might live in a small town if ...

Any guesses who the city attorney was during the 1983 controversy? No fair if you actually remember.

It was William J. Bloomer, father of current city attorney Matthew Bloomer. While my mother is of the Rutland Porters, I am not, to the best of my ability to determine, related to the above-mentioned Cecil Porter.

Calendar

The Board of Aldermen meets at 7 p.m. Monday. I have not, as of this writing, seen an agenda.

The Charter and Ordinance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to go over zoning amendments and the proposed sign ordinance.

The Development Review Board meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday to look at a proposed subdivision on Field Avenue.

gordon.dritschilo

@rutlandherald.com

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City Reporter

Gordon has been a reporter for the Rutland Herald for nearly 20 years. A Castleton State College graduate, he's covered beats from the West county to the city, cops and courts and everything in between.

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